Arizona faith groups step up to fill foster-care need

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

State task force works with churches to place growing  number of kids

12  comments          by Lindsey Erdody– Aug. 14,  2012 10:16 PM The Republic | azcentral.com

Arizona’s faith-based community is increasingly becoming a key component in  the statewide effort to find enough foster and adoptive families to care for the  growing number of children in need.

In a collaborative effort between the ArizonaSERVES Task Force and  faith-based foster and adoption agencies, more church members are becoming  certified to foster or adopt.

During an informational meeting in April, the line of people interested in  helping went out the door and wrapped along the sidewalk at Gilbert’s Mission  Community Church. More than 300 families came to learn how they could  help.

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Gov. Jan Brewer created the ArizonaSERVES Task Force in 2010 to engage the  faith community in the efforts to improve the foster-care system, among other  things. Since then, faith-based agencies have increased their family foster-home  applications from 18 percent to 21 percent of the total number of applications  to the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Chuck Fitzgerald, manager of the DES’ Office of Faith and Community, said the  task force targeted the faith community because faith leaders in the community  wanted to help but didn’t know how.

“The faith community believes they’re the only ones that can fix this, and  they may be right,” Fitzgerald said. “With that kind of confidence from that  side and our willingness and confidence on this side, I think it will work.”

In Arizona, there are more than 13,000 foster kids in the child-care system.  According to the DES, there are about 3,500 licensed foster homes with nearly  8,600 beds.

Stephen Browning, Christian Family Care statewide director for foster-care  services, said when he considers the number of churches in the area, there  should be plenty of homes for these children.

“When we do the math, we believe there should be no child waiting,” Browning  said.

No Child Waiting, a coalition of non-profits and evangelical churches, works  with about 30 churches. The organization was involved  with the event at Mission Community Church, which resulted in 20 families  beginning the certification process.

“Our goal is to get the word out and network with as many churches as  possible in the state,” No Child Waiting chairman Steve Hubler said. “What  excites me about this is the people that I’m interacting with that are getting  involved with this are not doing it as a duty.”

Andrea Stuart, statewide director for Arms of Love Foster Care with Arizona  Baptist Children’s Services, said she has seen results since Brewer’s task force  was created.

“That kind of raised awareness among churches and pastors,” she said.  “They’re realizing that there are children that need their help in their own  backyard.”

Stuart said that a year ago, the agency had about 85 foster families. It now  has 100.

Mark Upton, president of Christian Family Care, said the number of churches  his organization works with has doubled in the past year to include about 30  that are highly involved. In 2011, Christian Family Care was the largest  faith-based agency providing new foster-family applications, with 62 of the 253  church-based applications.

The various faith-based groups are asking church members to get involved at  any level they can. Upton said they are recruiting families to foster, adopt,  mentor, provide respite care, tutor or anything else to support foster  families.

Other ways to help include donating gifts, cooking and providing rides.

“Everyone in the church can be a part of helping meet the needs to these  children,” Browning said.

For more information, visit www.azdes.gov/arizonaserveshome.aspx.

Read more:  http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/07/18/20120718arizona-faith-groups-step-up-fill-foster-care-need.html#ixzz23cuk9JzN

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